Prostrate Spurge

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Prostrate Spurge       

(Euphorbia maculate)

Interesting Information About Plant: The Euphorbia maculata (spotted spurge) is a plant native to North America. The Prostrate Spurge, also commonly known as creeping spurge or spotted spurge, typically grows in the side walk cracks next to bushes, shrubs, and trees. Physical attributes include tiny oppositely arranged leaves and a reddish brownish stem, in most cases distinguishing it from most other weeds that grow in the cracks of sidewalks. Another distinguishing feature is the brownish red spot located in the middle of a leaf, hence the common name the spotted spurge. This particular type of plant is a summer annual, which means that it typically thrives on high amounts of sunlight and heat. Ideal germinating and growth conditions for the prostrate spurge happen in highly dry and hot weather conditions. To survive better it also needs an extremely thin layer of soil.

Like most weeds the spotted spurge has a central taproot, which is a singular root structure with many tiny hair like projections coming off from it. The plant above the taproot creates a mat above ground. It is a very small, flat plant and therefore can form a mat. The mat runs approximately 6-18 inches in width and is usually less than 1 inch in height. The Prostrate spurge is a dicot plant.

Flowers of a spotted spurge are tiny white flowers, extremely unnoticeable unless one knows what they are looking for. When broken the spurge produces a creamy white latex. The milky white latex could be poisonous when contact is made with eyes because it could cause blindness. Although this particular plant has many outstanding features, however, often times it is mistaken for other common weeds such as Common Purslane and Prostrate Knotweed. 

Common Name: Prostrate Spurge

Scientific Name: Euphorbia maculata

Family Name (Scientific and Common): Euphorbiaceae or commonly known as the Spurge family 

Continent of Origin: North America

Most Distinguishing Morphological Features of This Plant:    Brownish red spot close to the center of the leaf and and the somewhat hairy red stem.

Plant Growth Habit:  Ground Cover 

Height at Maturity: Less than 1 foot    

Life Span:  Annual (herbaceous) 

Seasonal Habit: Herbaceous That Dies Back in Winter  

Growth Habitat: Full Sun 

Manner of Culture: Weed

Thorns on Younger Stem?   No

Cross Section of Younger Stem: Roundish   

Stem (or Trunk) Diameter: Less Than The Diameter of a Pencil  

Produces Brownish Bark? No

Bark Peeling in Many Areas? No

Characteristics of Mature (Brownish) Bark: No Mature Bark (all green)

Type of Leaf:  Flat, Thin Leaf  

Length of Leaf (or Leaflet): Less than Length of a Credit Card 

Leaf Complexity: Simple 

Shape of Leaf: Simple 

Edge of Leaf: Smooth

Leaf Arrangement: Opposite 

Leaf has Petiole? Yes 

Patterns of Main-Veins: Pinnate

Leaf Hairiness: Somewhat Hairy  

Color of Foliage in Summer: Green or Often Reddish

Change in Color of Foliage in October:   More Reddish

Flowering Season: Summer 

Flowers: Single

Type of Flower:   Colorful Flower

Color of Flower: White

Shape of Individual Flower:    Radially Symmetrical 

Size of Individual Flower:    Smaller than a Quarter  

Sexuality:    Male and Female on Same Plant

Size of Fruit:    Smaller than a Quarter 

Fruit Fleshiness at Maturity: Dry

Shape of Fruit: Spherical  

Color of Fruit at Maturity: Yellow-Orange  

Fruit Desirable to Birds or Squirrels? No   

Unique Morphological Features of Plant:     The red spot on the leaf is a pretty neat morphological feature. Also, the red somewhat hairy stem also show to be an individualistic feature. 

Is the Plant Poisonous:     Part of Plant   

Pesty Plant (weedy, hard to control)?     Yes  

Common Name(s):      Creeping Spurge, Prostrate Spurge, and Spotted Spurge

Louisville Plants That Are Most Easily Confused With This One:     Common Purslane and Knotweed

Page prepared by:

Sanda Zolj

December, 2006


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